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2014/2015  KAN-CSOCV1008U  Difference and Disruption: The politics of organization

English Title
Difference and Disruption: The politics of organization

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Course period First Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for MSc of Social Science
Course coordinator
  • Max Schellmann - MPP
  • Timon Beyes - MPP
Adm. contact: Karina Ravn Nielsen, electives.mpp@cbs.dk or phone 3815 3782
Main academic disciplines
  • Organization
  • Political Science
  • Political leadership, public management and international politics
  • Economic and organizational sociology
Last updated on 08-04-2014
Learning objectives
  • Reflect upon new and alternative forms of organization and understand their political implications
  • Understand, compare and analyse current literature on the return of the political with regard to current political events
  • Apply those theories to exemplary cases and their organizational forms and processes
  • Identify and theorize the implications for organizational practice
Course prerequisites
Active class participation (text- and presentation-based discussions) is strongly recommended.
Difference and Disruption: The politics of organization:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Project
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period October
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content and structure
In the 1990s, fuelled by the political event of the fall of the wall and the collapse of socialist regimes, some commentators proclaimed ‘the end of politics’. On a global level, establishing liberal democracies in conjunction with market-based economies would herald an age of peaceful co-existence, putting to rest the ‘cold’ and violent struggle between political systems and Weltanschauungen.

Some 20 years later, this fantasy of “the peaceful realization of reason by a government of the wise against the backdrop of consensual, consumerist mediocracy”, as the French philosopher Jacques Rancière (1995, p. 34f.) rather misgivingly called it, has turned out to be – well, a fantasy. From a proliferation of armed conflicts to guerilla-style terrorist movements, from global uprisings in the mold of “Occupy” to the “Anonymous” hacker movement, from Arab Spring to Spanish Indignados to “Femen” to countless small-scale struggles around how to organize one’s life in contemporary cities: Politics is back (and probably never went away, anyway).
But perhaps it is not about ‘politics’ but about ‘the political’, not about institutional politics and its individual or organizational actors but about the ability to make a new beginning and interrupt and reshape a given order, to echo Hanna Arendt’s famous definition of the political (2003). Politics in the sense of the political, then, emerges through the struggle of an unrecognized party for equal recognition in the established order, of making one’s voice heard, of changing the terms of a given debate, of interrupting and reinventing a given organization of what can be said and done.
The focus on the political, and thus on its disruptive moment and how plurality and difference, transformation and new publics come to appear, is currently – and with regard to current events: not surprisingly – en vogue again, occupying some of the more provocative contemporary thinkers. It is also the focus of this course, and informs how we wish to approach, study and reflect on the politics of organization. Because what is also at stake in these discussions is how we approach the politics of organization and new forms and processes of organizing. Again, consider “Occupy” or “Anonymous”: Arguably, these movements become political by changing the ways they organize themselves and seek to influence their environments. They present us with the task of not only rethinking politics as the political, but also rethinking the role and processes of organization that take place in political events.
In this course, then, we seek to confront the study of organization with the question of the political. To do so, we will read the most important texts of the current ‘political turn’, which is connected to political and philosophical thinkers such as Agamben, Laclau, Mouffe, Rancière and Žižek. What can we learn about and ‘for’ organization? Moreover, do these texts, concepts and ways of thinking help us to make sense of processes of organizing as they appear in contemporary political, social and urban movements, maybe even in seemingly conventional organizational contexts? Might we even say that current processes of (dis-)organizing call for a different understanding of the political and thus the politics of organization? To explore a new politics of organization, the students are thus asked to relate their conceptual findings to the study of actual movements and processes of (re)organizing such as the ones mentioned above. 

Course structure (indicative)

The course is text-based: It hinges on engaging with concepts and debates on the political in order to coax out their importance for understanding and enacting organizational processes. To make things concrete, students are then asked to explore contemporary performances of organization and analyze and reflect on their politics, i.e. mainly with regard to the course literature.
The success of all sessions is predicated on the students’ (and, of course, the teachers’) engagement. Discussion-based formats and peer-learning are emphasized.

  • Introduction: politics, the political and the question of organization
  • Understanding the political (1): Agamben and the logic of the camp
  • Understanding the political (2): Rancière and the redistribution of the sensible
  • Understanding the political (3): Žižek and liberalist fantasies
  • Understanding the political (4): Laclau and Mouffe and ‘agonistic’ politics
  • Group building, identification of cases
  • Presentation and discussion of group ideas as well as next steps 
  • Closing Round, Feedback
Teaching methods
The course will consist of input lectures as well as text-, video- and research-based dialogical sessions.
Further Information

Changes in course schedule may occur
Wednesday 13.30-15,10, week 36
Wednesday 13.30-17.00, week 37-43

Expected literature
Agamben, G. (2000) Means without End. Notes on Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 
Arendt, H.  (1970). On Violence. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Javanovich.
Beyes, T. and Volkmann, C. (2010), ‘The fantasy of the organizational One: Postdemocracy, organizational transformation and the (im)possibility of politics’, Journal of Organizational Change Management, 23 (6): 651-668.
Beyes, T., Michels C. and Steyaert C. (2013), ‘In Search of the Political’, unpublished manuscript.
Butler, J. Laclau, E. and Žižek, S. (2000). Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues On The Left. London and New York: Verso.
Böhm, S. (2005). Repositioning Organization Theory: Impossibilities and Strategies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Marchart, O. (2007). Post-foundational Political Thought:Political Difference in Nancy, Lefort, Badiou and Laclau (Taking on the Political).Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Rancière, J. (1995). On the Shores of Politics. London: Verso.
Rancière, J. (2010). ‘Ten Theses on Politics’. In: Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics (pp. 27-44). London: continuum.
Last updated on 08-04-2014